Keeping the Yucca watchdog fed
September 24, 2004
With higher taxes and a galloping economy, the Nevada Legislature next year expects to be in the happy position of having plenty of money for its two-year budget.
A good investment would be continued oversight of the Department of Energy’s work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently turned down a request from Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Office for a $13.75 million grant. At a time the state needs to step up its efforts, the amount of money available to Bob Loux and his watchdogs has been dwindling.
That money usually comes from Congress, which promised to provide adequate money for the state to monitor independently the research into Yucca Mountain’s suitability as a waste-disposal site. The state may now need to increase its share, or risk losing some of its credibility in the scientific debate.
There is no doubt the Nevada watchdogs have done important work over the years. Their research and analysis has repeatedly exposed flaws and deficiencies in the Energy Department’s conclusions. It’s not enough to cry “foul” in the political arena – Nevada needs the facts to back up its claims.
Although a solid majority of Nevadans still opposes the Yucca project, recent polls have shown an increase in the number of Nevadans willing to “negotiate” the issue. Last week, Carson City Assemblyman Ron Knecht told a forum audience that “Yucca Mountain is probably as good a place as any for nuclear storage.”
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The truth or falsity of that statement relies entirely on the performance of waste-storage containers – something scientists admitted last week they still can’t predict.
We’re not prepared to stand aside to let the Energy Department carry on, given its record on safety issues such as the exposure of Yucca workers to silica dust, only to find out years from now just how wrong it could be.